WITH a recent survey conducted by the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area having identified public intoxication as one of the major hinderances to downtown business, city council wasted no time in questioning RCMP Inspector Dana Hart on the issue at the regular council meeting on Oct. 28.
Councillor Bruce Bidgood said he’d heard from local merchants that the problem of loiterers was getting better, with fewer panhandlers on streets, but that “the recent survey might suggest otherwise.”
Hart, the commander of the local RCMP detachment who presented his quarterly report to council on local crime numbers spanning July 1 to Sept. 30, referred to recent efforts to reduce crime.
“You will recall we put everyone in uniform onto the four [police patrol] watches,” said Hart, adding that they have done foot patrols and bar checks.
“It’s worked out very well because the onus has been put on each and every one [of the police force].”
Councillor Marylin Davies also asked Hart about the problem with drunks in public places.
“I wonder if you feel there was more than usual,” said Davies.
In response to the queries by council, Hart said that in fact the statistics from the recent crime report for the third quarter show that fewer cases of public intoxication were dealt with by the RCMP compared to the same period last year.
“Public intoxication is defined by the courts as someone who is stupefied and incoherent,” said Hart.
“We have to be careful about perception. Is someone sitting passed out drunk or are they having a nap on the bench?”
“We also have to be mindful and respectful of the individual’s rights,” added Hart. “It’s a real balancing act for us. With the weather we had a lot of people out and about and sitting on park benches.”
“I’m not saying we don’t have a problem,” he continued. “We do. But the police just arresting someone, holding them and incarcerating…in the end it’s cyclical and we have talked about this before, that it’s a bigger problem than just policing.”
Hart said that overall there were in fact 100 fewer people incarcerated for public intoxication during the period compared to the same time in 2012.
“There were fewer people who met that threshold,” he said.
Hart said that a damp shelter is being opened soon which will provide people with drinking problems a temporary place to stay.
“One of the things to keep in mind is the time of the actual survey,” said councillor Brian Downie, pointing out that the survey data was collected back in April.